Want more success? Get better relationships
What kind of crazy guy would want to have 250 coffee meetings in a year? How about being willing to drive 90 minutes into New York City to have a 15 minute coffee meeting that the person he was meeting with “might be late for”?
This is the madness of Robbie Abed. Robbie understood the power of relationships, he knew that great things are not achieved alone and always hinge on strong relationships with a diverse group of people. This is the strategy of a man who built a successful marketing business, starting with no network.
Who did he meet for coffee? James Altucher. Was it a 15 minute meeting? Nope, it turned into a podcast interview on Ask Altucher. Something a few people would commit murder for. Not only that, but James became an advocate for Robbie and his 250 coffees a year strategy.
I speak with dozens of people each month who want to have a successful business, a popular brand or a content marketing strategy that drives free traffic to their website. Most seem to be obsessed with “SEO” and “keywords.” No doubt, these are important elements to a strong online presence, but strong SEO these days is a proxy for strong relationships. You can do the most incredibly brilliant work in whatever industry or art form you wish, but without strong relationships with others in your space, your genius will go unnoticed.Without strong relationships with others in your space, your genius will go unnoticed. Click To Tweet
So how do we cultivate the relationships that help us grow, that feed us opportunity, that help us land the dream job, that let us have that successful product launch?
I know many people that have a great deal of raw talent that never gets developed. They know they have it too, but they’re “waiting” to be discovered. They’re waiting for some wealthy or influential person to spot this talent in them and give them a “golden ticket” to their dreams.
Seth Godin talks about this “waiting” in his post “The lottery winners (a secret of unhappiness)”
“That pretty much doesn’t happen, except for just a handful of people who win some sort of cosmic lottery, who get ‘discovered’ at a drug store and made a movie star, who are on the fast track to CEO of the Fortune 500, who get the big label deal and the gold records, merely for being in the right place at the right time.
Those people, it turns out, those few, end up unhappy. You might imagine that you’d like to be in their shoes, but they spend every day feeling both entitled and fraudulent.“
Nevertheless, this is a very attractive narrative. You see it happen all the time in characters like Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, Cinderella and so on… The poor wretch gets discovered and becomes a hero, achieves great things, and overcomes challenges. Though these are all beautiful stories, they appeal to your laziness more than anything. People that follow this plan end up spending their whole lives waiting for permission from someone else to do what they want to do, and it never comes.
In some ways, if you play these stories backwards, you’ll get a more accurate picture of how to succeed. By starting something on your own and working diligently to grow it over time, you’ll begin to attract people that resonate with what you are doing. As your project grows in recognition and quality, you can use it as a tool to connect with more and more interesting people.
Jeremy Slate was a struggling entrepreneur who had yet to really find his groove. His background as a teacher and personal trainer drove his curiosity to examine the patterns that lead to success for entrepreneurs, athletes, artists and other professionals. He wanted a way to connect with these people to learn what made them great.
Jeremy started the Create Your Own Life podcast to do this. It started as a small project with a small reach and a bit of traction. But he was consistent with his interviews, and with each episode published, his podcast became a more influential tool to open doors to interesting people.
In less than 9 months, his small podcast has become one of the top business podcasts on iTunes. He has used it as a tool to connect with his heroes like Grant Cardone, land TV interviews, and write for big brands like Influencive and Entrepreneur.
Listen between the lines
Listening is a challenging skill to develop, whether in a personal conversation or when reaching out to someone online or negotiating that next big deal.
Most people listen enough to be able to summarize the main point of a conversation. But this is just the bare minimum of what you should do; most of the treasure is what lies between the lines.
For example, when working for one of my previous clients over a few months, the main thing we would converse about is marketing for his business, obviously right? But every once in a while, we would go off on some tangent or seemingly small talk.
Halfway jokingly, we discussed starting a business that sold Thai fisherman pants.
“I like them, they’re really comfy, loose fitting, and they don’t show your butt crack when you bend over”
This conversation could be easily dismissed, but it stuck with me. Over a year later, I found myself in Thailand. I grabbed a pair of these pants and shipped them to him as a small christmas gift.
I got a call a few weeks later thanking me for the best gift he got this year.
This client was particularly important to me; he was one of the first to work with my business and opened many doors for new work. I was determined to do good work for him, but that was of course expected. Listening between the lines for an opportunity to make a connection beyond our work was the key to forging a stronger relationship that lead to more and bigger opportunities down the road.
Be an opportunity maker
Humans have a bad habit of continuously focusing on themselves. Most people only ever consider how a relationship or opportunity can benefit them. This perspective will leave you surrounded by people who are doing the same, leaving everyone, at best, right where they started.
In her TED talk, Kare Anderson encourages the audience to become opportunity makers.
“Unlike an increasing number of Americans who are working and living and playing with people who think exactly like them, because we then become more rigid and extreme, opportunity-makers are actively seeking situations with people unlike them, and they’re building relationships, and because they do that, they have trusted relationships where they can bring the right team in and recruit them to solve a problem better and faster and seize more opportunities. They’re not affronted by differences, they’re fascinated by them, and that is a huge shift in mindset, and once you feel it, you want it to happen a lot more.“
This was Garin Etcheberry’s strategy, giving away his best ideas to anyone and everyone, with no expectations for anything in return, not even a response.
Garin sent 10 ideas to a different business or person every day for a month. He took time to do research on the business, the people and the environment they operated in and tried to give them something that would truly help them. It wasn’t always a company he was interested in working with, but anyone or anything that caught his attention: a political organization that needed help writing better email headlines, an MMA organization with a new CEO, a new podcast that discusses the Middle East, a random guy that challenged him to share some ideas for dentists.
Not everyone responded, some simply said, “Thank you,” but the response was overwhelmingly positive. He was offered 5 jobs that month that he considered “dream jobs,” along with 7 Skype conversations and 10 other possible collaborations.
Sharing his ideas generously not only worked his “idea muscles” (which alone is worth the effort), but it planted the seeds for new relationships and new opportunity.
Become a customer
It’s important to remember that your relationships are an investment. Often this means you’ll need to invest time and energy to keep your valuable relationships healthy and growing. You should also not be afraid to invest money in order to open doors to new relationships. Often the people you’re interested in meeting have some kind of product, service, community or event that they care deeply about.
High-profile people are endlessly bombarded with emails of people asking for their time and attention. They are often referred to as “land mines”; the better known the person is, the more “land mines” they’ll have to avoid. If this is your strategy, there’s very little you’ll be able to do to stand out, even if you do have some value to offer them.
Becoming a customer removes you from the long list of “land mines” and makes you a high priority. It also shows them that you respect what they are doing, not simply trying to take their time and attention.
Dan McDaniel, author of The Ultimate Guide To Success, used this strategy to meet one of the most well-known people in the world today, Oprah. It was a moment that would change his life forever and inspire him to become an author, making the price of the ticket seem small in exchange for the inspiration and motivation he received.
Dan, a budding author purchased a ticket to Oprah’s “The Life You Want Weekend”. Dan purchased a VIP package which gave him an in-person meeting with Oprah and VIP seating, which surrounded him with other brilliant authors.
“Just a few rows in front of me—also enjoying the luxury of VIP seating—were multiple New
York Times bestselling authors and personal growth pioneers. Among these high-powered influencers were Houston native, research professor, and TEDx viral sensation Brené Brown; celebrated spiritual leader and host of the critically acclaimed Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) series Iyanla: Fix My Life, Iyanla Vanzant; and the author of the self-reflective memoir-turned-global phenomenon Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert.”
Within a year, Dan had completed his second book.
Send a handwritten card or a small gift to show gratitude
When you were a kid, your mom probably forced you to write thank you cards to your friends and family for every birthday present you received. It happened to me. At the time, it felt like pulling teeth. But like most things, you don’t see the wisdom in what your parents do until much later in life.
Taking a moment to share gratitude is absolutely powerful. Send anyone that helps you on campus or off a thank you card. This is something that is done so little that it is a tragedy. Any time someone helps you is an opportunity to say, “Thank you.” By showing gratitude, you invite more of the same into your life and you make an impact on the person that helped you.
You can have an even bigger impact with a handwritten note. It does not have to be very long to make a big impression. The process of writing it out and sending the note shows that you took some time out of your day to appreciate what someone has done for you. Make sure to always leave the door open for you to return the favor if they need help.
Pete Vargas from Advance Your Reach encourages his students to do this when working on getting booked for speaking gigs. This is one of the “secret ingredients” to his students success in booking more stages and getting paid more than most speakers looking to get their start.
Meeting planners are constantly bombarded with people self-promoting and asking them for stuff. They are almost never receive gratitude for the work they do. A simple card or a small gift like a box of brownies can make a powerful impression and help you rise to the top of their speaker list.
This doesn’t just work with speaking gigs, but almost any situation where there’s someone you want to build a relationship that is short on time and has to filter through hundreds of “land mines” (like I mentioned above).
A great service to help you with these cards or gifts is Send Out Cards.
A tool to manage relationships
For someone who is just getting started networking and building great relationships, it can be difficult to keep organized with all of the new people you are meeting and how you can add value to their lives.
I created a Trello board to help me track my interactions and make sure I was keeping up with the people I met and sticking to the commitments I made with them. This may seem odd to have a tool to manage relationships, especially if you are someone who is extroverted like me. But it is far too easy to lose track of valuable relationships with so many distractions these days. You need a simple system to visualize the tribe you are building and to help support you in reaching out to them.
Inside is a detailed tutorial on how to use the board, along with some good ideas for how you can build relationships with your content marketing.
You can download the board here.
Every big leap forward in my life has been the result of a relationship with someone who was willing to make a bet on me. I rarely (if ever) had any idea how these relationships would impact my life, I’m sure everyone else featured in this post would agree that they could not have predicted how the relationships they have formed would change their lives. But they took bold action and gave generously.
If you want these same results, try some of these strategies in your own life and see what happens.